Monday, April 06, 2009

Someone -- The New York Times? -- confuses possession with importation, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute

The New York Times reported on Friday (for Saturday publication)on an interview with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, before his meeting with his counterpart in Mexico.

In the interview, Mr. Holder said he was sending an additional 100 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the southern border to crack down on the so-called straw gun purchases — in which one person submits to the federal background checks to obtain guns for someone else — that fuel much of the southbound smuggling. And with marijuana sales central to the drug trade, Mr. Holder said he was exploring ways to lower the minimum amount required for the federal prosecution of possession cases.

Probably The New York Times reporter substituted possession for importation or distribution, or perhaps possession with intent to distribute, when she wrote the story. If Holder said possession, he almost certainly meant possession with intent to distribute, importation or distribution. Federal prosecutors offices along the border have had informal quantity floors for taking drug cases to trial in federal court. If someone is simply crossing the border at Tijuana or El Paso, and is in possession of personal use amounts of marijuana, they are almost never prosecuted for felony importation or for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. The prosecutors have so many cases of commercial couriers they have to disregard minor cases for federal court prosecution. The Attorney General isn't getting more resources so that he can direct Assistant U.S. Attorneys on lower-level cases.

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1 comment:

Pete Guither said...

I got a response from the reporter that left me as confused as before, when I asked her to verify whether Holder meant "possession" or whether he was referring to trafficking offenses.

"Thanks very much for your query.
Mr. Holder said he thought that too few marijuana possession cases were prosecuted by the federal government, and that he was exploring lowering the minimums to prosecute more."